The Saga of Chutzpah the Mouse
In Several Parts
This being the Second
Which follows upon the First Part, wherein we met our protagonist and, for the very first time, encountered The Mouse. Here resumes the tale, wherein The Mouse executes a marvelous deed of derring-do and thusly earns himself a name.
The next day, I discovered my findings to my roommate. The inquiétude of the previous night had passed. All that remained was the lingering image of this cute little creature perched upon my chair, lost in what must have been a rare moment of mousal self-reflection. “You know, they’re really quite cute,” I said. “Let me show you something,” he said.
Seven steps later, we were in the East Wing of our palatial abode.1 My roommate opened a floor-level cabinet and extracted a bag of cookies. It was not just any bag of cookies, but rather a bag of cookies with a hole in it. A mouse-mouth-shaped hole, to be precise. I folded my arms across my chest and tilted my head down, cocked a bit to one side. “Right,” I said. “Let’s kill the bastard.” “Ok. I’ll pick up some traps on my way home from work tonight.”
My roommate works in something called the “Social Services.” I have to admit, I’m not entirely sure what he does. I know he helps people, which is the main thing. But over the years,2 it’s become apparent to me that he’s picked up some unique and perhaps even super-human skills in The Service. For one, he’s very good at emergencies.3 For another, he knows about vermin.4 So he picked up some snap traps and set about converting our apartment from a tenement to a mouse abattoir.
The traps had peanut butter set upon them as bait. “Why do the traps have peanut butter set upon them as bait,” I asked. “Oh, mice love peanut butter,” he informed me. Do they, I wondered? Or do you love peanut butter.5 But, I reasoned, it’s the 21st century. If a man can marry a man, surely a mouse can fancy peanut-butter.6
How does one name a mouse? Ought one to name a mouse? Isn’t it funny how names often match personality? In Greek history, this is so often true.7 Or consider Charlemagne, if you prefer.8 Or better yet, President George W. Bush, “The Unready.”9 In any case, the smallest of the three beings living in our apartment would soon acquire a name of his very own.
“Come here and look at this!,” my roommate called out. I poked my head out of my room to find him pointing down at one of the peanut-butter laden traps. “Can you believe this?,” he cried. I came out of my room and stood beside him, looking at the trap. “Can I believe…what, exactly?” “The sonofabitch only took some of the peanut-butter!” “Bloody hell, you’re right!” I was impressed. It was immediately clear that The Mouse was so brazen as to walk right up to the trap, take as much peanut-butter as he pleased, and leave the rest for later. As if to say, thanks, that’s plenty for now. I’ll come back for the rest around seven. He’d done everything but ask for a to-go bag.
“Looks like the little bastard walked right up to the trap, took as much peanut-butter as he pleased and decided to save the rest for later,” I observed, out loud this time. “It’s almost as if he he’s said, ‘thanks, but that’s plenty for now. I’ll come back to for the rest around seven,’” my roommate followed. “He’s done everything but ask for a to-go bag!”10
“This mouse has some f*cking chutzpah,” I muttered. “Chutzaph!,” I shouted. “That’s his name!” “Chutzpah,” echoed my roommate. And it was at that moment that I started to root for the little guy. Well, how could you not? He’d outsmarted two comparatively intelligent humans,11 and now displayed the audacity to act as if we were leaving the peanut-butter around for no other reason than his well being, nevermind that it lay ensconced upon a device expressly devised for his ruination. But of course he didn’t know that.
Except that I fancied he knew exactly that. In my mind, he was playing games with us. And he was winning. And if there’s anything I know, coming from Brooklyn and having blood tinged with Dodger blue, it’s that you root for the loveable loser. Thus was I fairly and squarely rooting for Dis Bum.
Over the course of the next several days, my roommate would approach me with exasperation in his eyes and desperation in his voice.12 He’d advise me on the latest (mis)deeds of our rodentine roommate, hurling imprecations in a space far too small to hurl anything else. I’m not saying, mind you, that his anger wasn’t righteous. Apart from the general indignity of being outsmarted by a mouse, Chutzpah had taken to leaving his, shall we say, “calling card.” Little pellets of post-digested peanut-butter and typhoid fever or plague or the clap, or whatever it is mice are known to spread. And to be sure, this was his least charming attribute. But even in this, I was forced to tip my hat. Sort of like the detective who finds a personalized note at the scene of every murder-rape-disembowelment, and thinks to himself, I’ll put this bastard away if it’s the last thing I do, but, by god, is this contest invigourating.13
And so, the game was afoot. And by god, we would put him away, if it was the last thing we did. You might be good, Chutzpah, I thought. But you’ve made this personal. And this place isn’t big enough for the both of us.14
Tune in next week for the next exciting installment of The Saga of Chutzpah the Mouse, wherein Chutzaph’s luck runs out. Or does it?
- We call it “The Kitchen.” Pretension doesn’t suit us. [↩]
- We’ve been roommates for nigh on seven or eight years by this point in the story. We have a good arrangement, but it owes as much to M. “Little Caesar” Bloomberg as to our own peculiar camaraderie that the arrangement persists. [↩]
- We once saw a girl get hit by a taxi. We both had enough sense to run over and help, but he knew all about dialing 911 and not moving her neck or not trying to steal her iPhone. He also knew how to talk to her and keep her steady until the medics got there. I was quite impressed, but obviously he can never know that. [↩]
- I don’t mean the kind of vermin you find working in state agencies, although he has experience with those as well. [↩]
- He’s actually quite fond of peanut-butter. But then, who isn’t? And the answer is, people who are allergic to peanuts, presumably. And wankers. And toss-pots. Which is not to imply that only unsavoury Britons don’t like peanut-butter. And yet, they’re not at all keen on peanut-butter & jelly over there. And they wonder how they lost an empire. [↩]
- Sadly, there are still many states where mice have not yet won the right to eat peanut-butter. [↩]
- Every student of the ancient Graecian tongue will at some point read Lysias’ oration On the Murder of Eratosthenes, in which he defends a man who killed the fellow who was having an affair with that man’s wife, a scoundrel going by the name of Eratosthenes. Eratosthenes, of course, means “mighty lover” (ἔραϲθαι/erasthai – ‘to lust after’; ϲθένοϲ/sthenos – ‘strength’). And this mighty lover becomes known for his adultery. I mean, he could have been a garbage man or something (sorry, “sanitation worker”). But no, he has to be an adulterer. [↩]
- I once mentioned Charlemagne to a German friend, who proceeded to tell me he’d never heard of him. “Never heard of Charlemagne,” I asked incredulously. He insisted he had no idea. “Umm, Carolus Magnus,” I offered, knowing he’d studied Latin. Still no idea. So I googled it. “Karl der Große,” I tried. Oh, of course! He’s a great German hero! Never heard of Charlemagne. My ass. [↩]
- A sobriquet kept warm by some Anglo-Saxon king named Æthelred. Feel free to draw your own conclusions. [↩]
- And I realized that seven or eight years is a very long time to be living with somebody. [↩]
- We’ve both been to college, at least. [↩]
- And whiskey on his breath. But you know what they say about people who live in glass houses? That’s right. They’ve no business being skeptical about global warming. #WheresMyScotch [↩]
- Based on the spelling of his thoughts, we can deduce that this particular detective probably works for Scotland Yard. [↩]
- When, in fact, the place was quite big enough for the three of us. But such rational calculations have a way of evading the provoked protagonist. [↩]